NEWAYGO COUNTY, Mich. – Mental health is at forefront of conversations in Newaygo county schools this school-year because the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan is launching be nice. programming in all five school districts throughout the county. The launch of this program countywide is made possible by a combined grant totaling $31,500 from the Gerber Foundation, the Fremont Area Community Foundation, and the Osteopathic Foundation of West Michigan.
The be nice. logo has become an eye-catching icon in more than 150 schools across the state. This year, representatives from thirteen school buildings in White Cloud, Hesperia, Fremont, Grant, and Newaygo school districts came together to be trained in this mental health program before introducing it to their students.
Kate Meengs, Development Coordinator for the Mental Health Foundation, explains that be nice. is an Action Plan that stands for notice, invite, challenge, and empower. “All of us can notice changes in someone’s behavior, invite themselves to have a conversation, challenge that person to utilize resources that are available, and empower that person with protective factors for their mental health.”
“When we learned that Newaygo schools, like many rural communities, had a 30% higher rate of suicide than the state average, we were eager to partner with the Gerber Foundation and the Fremont Area Community Foundation to fund this intervention,” says Andrea Masvero, Executive Director of the Osteopathic Foundation of West Michigan. “Our combined grant enables be nice. to reach every school in Newaygo County at a cost of less than $5 per student.”
Through the program, individuals as young as kindergarten learn and understand that they can influence how people think, act, and feel; their mental health. Following the initial training, the program is being launched across the county, beginning with staff members of all school buildings.
be nice. is student led so that it impacts the culture of the school in an organic way. High school and middle school students are supported in leading the initiative as they bring assemblies, activities, and community-wide events to their schools along with the elementary school buildings to promote positive school culture, mental health awareness, and the be nice. Action Plan.
The grant from Fremont Area Community Foundation came from the organization’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). “Our YAC students were happy to participate in funding the launch of be nice. in Newaygo County,” said Patti Wheater, YAC staff advisor. “Our students have seen firsthand how vital mental health education is for youth in our community. The be nice. program creates awareness and provides students with an action plan to help others and themselves, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
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